Is your period missing in action? If your periods have been absent for three months or more it could be due to hypothalamic amenorrhea. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is when your periods stop for several months, due to a problem with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a major control centre in your brain which sends out signals telling your body systems what to do. One of its many important roles is to control ovulation and reproduction.
There are a number of causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea including, low body weight or low percentage body fat, following a very low-fat diet or under fuelling, over exercising, as well as stress. If any of these are going on, the hypothalamus may sense it is not getting enough energy and will try to shut things down to conserve energy. Your reproductive system is one of the systems it will shut down, as it is not essential for survival, leading to absent periods, anovulation and subsequently impacting fertility.
There are a number of symptoms of hypothalamic amenorrhea including:
• Absent periods
• Low libido
• Low energy
• Often feeling cold
• Depression and anxiety
• Increased hunger
• Difficulty sleeping
What you can do to encourage your period to return
Eat healthy fats - Ensure you are eating plenty of healthy fats, such as from oily fish, avocados, nuts, olive oil and olives. Fat is essential to the body for energy, to help us absorb certain vitamins and for sex hormone production.
Avoid counting or restrict calories – the focus should be on having a nutrient dense diet rather than counting calories. If you have low body fat or are underweight, start increasing your caloric intake and include nutrient dense snacks in your diet.
Review your exercise – how much exercise are you doing, is it too much or too intense? It can be useful to assess how you feel after a workout. If you feel worn out this could be a sign that you are pushing your body too much, ideally you want the exercise to make you feel energised.
Stress management - are you continually busy and have little time to rest and relax? When we are stressed our body prioritises survival and can shut down ovulation. Take stock and assess your stress levels and put in place measures to reduce stress, such deep breathing, practicing mediation or mindfulness, yoga, going for a walk or simply chatting to friends and family. It is important that you find time for you every day, even if it is just for ten minutes.
Prioritise sleep - sleep is crucial to our health. It is important for rest and repair, energy conservation, hormone regulation and to help reduce our stress load. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, switch devices off two hours before bed and ensure that your bedroom is a place that invites sleep.
I had amenorrhea for seven years in my late twenties and thirties. At the time I did not know how serious it was not to have periods and unfortunately I did not get any support on how I could try to get them back. I did not receive a diagnosis of hypothalamic amenorrhea, but I am sure following a very low-fat diet and overexercising in the past plus the stress of infertility was related to my missing periods. Do not suffer in silence like I did. If your periods are absent, irregular, painful, heavy, or very light, seek support and if you would like some help with how diet and lifestyle can support hypothalamic amenorrhea contact me.
For 21 quick and simple fertility friendly meal ideas, download my free fertility meal plan Fabulous Foods for Fertility: https://www.juliayoungnutrition.com/fertility-mealplan
Julia Young Nutrition T: 0771 589 0894 [email protected] www.juliayoungnutrition.com
Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions.